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Does sexual aggression alter the female brain?

Rutgers scientists have taken a step toward understanding how sexual aggression alters the female brain.

In a recent study inĀ Scientific Reports, lead author Tracey Shors, professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Collaborative Neuroscience in the School of Arts and Sciences, discovered that prepubescent female rodents paired with sexually experienced males had elevated levels of stress hormones, could not learn as well, and expressed reduced maternal behaviors needed to care for offspring.

“This study is important because we need to understand how sexual aggression affects all species,” said Shors. “We also need to know the consequences of this behavior in order for us to determine what we can do to help women learn to recover from sexual aggression and violence.”

Thirty percent of women worldwide experience some kind of physical or sexual assault in their lifetime and adolescent girls are much more likely than the general public to be victims of rape, attempted rape or assault, according to the World Health Organization. Recent surveys indicate that as many as one in five college women experience sexual violence while on campus.

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